Author Archive: Bertin Lefkovic

All We Are Saying is Give an Open Primary a Chance

Union County, like Essex County and Hudson County, is a blue county and despite its confusing name, its Democratic Party organization awards places on its “party line” to candidates for municipal, county, state, and federal offices in the least democratic manner possible.  Its county chair makes a unilateral decision.  Other county party organizations, like those in Bergen and Middlesex Counties, hold quasi-democratic conventions, where county committeepersons are able to vote for prospective candidates for elected office using a secret ballot.  I don’t give these counties full credit for being small-d democratic, because I know the degree to which their county committeepersons are part of a political machine, which controls how party officers like committeepersons vote through no-show jobs and other corrupts forms of patronage.

Red counties like Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren are the most small-d democratic of the county Democratic Party organizations.  Because these organizations have so little actual power in their counties and municipalities, where most of the patronage opportunities come from, their committeepersons are activists and true believers, working to build their party organizations from the grassroots up with no individual agendas or desires for personal enrichment except with regards to the degree that their efforts will produce better governance in their communities.  These organizations hold truly open conventions and I have personally witnessed a contested congressional primary election swing on their outcome.

One county party organization, Sussex County, intends to take their commitment and dedication to the democratic process a step further by opening their convention to all registered Democrats in their counties, not just county committeepersons.  This might be because there isn’t a significantly larger number of registered Democrats than Democratic county committeepersons in Sussex, but let us give them the benefit of the doubt.

Waiting for Codey: Why a Primary Election Would Be Good for Democrats and Democratic Candidates

As Barbara Buono’s gubernatorial candidacy continues to pick up steam with endorsements from party leaders in Monmouth and Somerset Counties in addition to her home county of Middlesex as well as positive statements from political machine bosses like Joe DiVincenzo and George Norcross, it appears as if the only thing standing between her and the Democratic nomination is our state’s former Acting Governor, Richard Codey who is currently considering a gubernatorial run of his own and has been talking to the Democratic Governors Association and national labor leaders to gauge how much money they would be willing to commit to help him take on Chris Christie in the fall if he was successful in becoming the Democratic nominee.

Codey’s delay in making a decision is clearly a product of Cory Booker’s decision to take far too much time to tell the rest of us what many of us already knew, which was that there was no way that he was going to put his political career on the line in a tough battle against Chris Christie when he could run for the United States Senate next year and have a much easier path to victory (that is, unless Frank Lautenberg, Frank Pallone, and/or Steve Sweeney decide to stand in his way) and while credit should be given to Buono for being willing to put her political career on the line before New Jersey’s answer to LeBron James got around to making his big decision and the impatience being expressed by many in the Democratic Party is understandable and as much as I would love to see this primary election season get underway, I believe that Codey should be given sufficient space and time (until the end of the month) to make what amounts to the most important decision of his political career.

There are many good reasons why Codey deserves this.  First and foremost amongst these is the fact that throughout his distinguished political career, he has set the standard for good governance and political independence.  He has also been a good and loyal Democrat.  When he was Acting Governor, he could (and probably should) have challenged Jon Corzine for the Democratic nomination in 2005.  He would have had nothing to lose by running that year.  Even if he had lost, he would have still been a State Senator and would have most likely remained Senate President.  But he was more interested in governing well than campaigning for Governor and coming on the heels of the McGreevey scandals, he wanted the Democratic Party to be united behind a single candidate going into the general election.

Who will be New Jersey’s Howard Dean in 2013?

Who remembers hearing Dean’s ‘What I Want to Know’ speech? It was a freshwater slap in the face to the orthodoxy of the Democratic Party and the complacence of too many of its members with the trajectory of the Republican in the executive seat. Sound familiar? Well, as you answer, remember this: Howard lost the nomination to lesser lights. Does that teach us anything? But remember this, too: 2 years later (nearly to the day), Dean became DNC Chair, and changed – for a while – the party’s direction and organizing priorities.

Is anything like that even possible in New Jersey? – Rosi



February 21, 2013 will be the 10th Anniversary of the speech (it begins shortly after the two-hour mark) that Howard Dean delivered at the Democratic National Convention’s Winter Meeting that put him on the map as a Presidential candidate and made him the standard-bearer of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party that he still is today.

It is my hope that by this date, the field of candidates for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination will be set and at least one of them will provide rank-and-file Democrats, progressive or otherwise, with the same kind of clarity of vision and voice that Howard Dean gave us on the national level nearly ten years ago.  

State Senator (and former Senate Majority Leader) Barbara Buono, who is the only candidate in the field at the moment, is undoubtedly progressive enough, but it remains to be seen if she can communicate those progressive values as passionately and powerfully as Dean did and continues to do so today.  She has been Governor Chris Christie’s most visible and vocal opponent to date and would have no problem contrasting how differently she would govern our state than the incumbent has to date.

State Senator (and former Acting Governor and Senate President) Richard Codey has the same progressive bona fides as Senator Buono and to his credit played a critical role in securing the endorsement of then-Governor Jim McGreevey and the bulk of the state’s Democratic establishment for Governor Dean towards the end of 2003.  The successful year-plus that he served as the state’s Acting Governor gives him more than enough good will and name recognition to be able to compete with Christie this fall.

The Big Announcement

The date is Friday, December 14.  The Trenton Marriott is buzzing with electricity in anticipation of a major announcement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, most likely concerning his decision to sign or veto the Obamacare health insurance exchange legislation.  There are also rumors afloat that Newark Mayor Cory Booker will be making a big splash of his own sometime this week as well as some whispers about Air Force One being in the state unexpectedly and Secret Service sightings, which could only mean that President Barack Obama could be in the vicinity, ramping up speculation that Christie will be thumbing his nose at the Republican Party, yet again, and signing the legislation in the presence of the President.

The ballroom is filled with national and state media and the stage is unusually large, which means that the Governor will most likely be accompanied by a large number of supporters when he makes his announcement.  The stage door opens and the first to enter is…

…South Jersey party boss, George Norcross, followed by Senate President Steven Sweeney, Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, George’s brother, Senator Donald Norcross, Essex County party boss, Steve Adubato, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Garden State Equality founder, Steven Goldstein, Senator Raymond Lesniak, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, Assemblyman and NJDSC Chairman John Wisniewski, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, Camden Mayor Dana Redd, and numerous other State Assemblypersons, State Senators, big city Mayors, and well-known County and Municipal Chairpersons.

With every high-profile Democrat that enters the stage area the murmurs from the media in attendance get louder and louder and it becomes apparent to everyone that there is not going to be a single Republican in this room today.  Suddenly the room explodes with commotion from the floor and flashbulbs begin popping like mad as the last few VIPs file in starting with the President of the United States, Barack Obama, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Senator Barbara Buono, Senator Richard Codey, and finally, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Booker, Christie, and Obama take seats at the table while the rest of the high-profile Democrats in the room take standing positions behind them and Christie begins to speak.

Why We Need A REAL 21-County Strategy

I would remind you that progressivism in the defense of democracy is no vice and let me remind you also that capitulation to bossism for the sake of victory is no virtue.

If you want to accuse me of being as extreme a progressive as Barry Goldwater was a conservative, feel free, but I seriously doubt that Goldwater ever had to tolerate sentiments as asinine and defeatist from Republican moderates as those in the recent diary, “Let the 2013 Games Begin: Why Sheldon Adelson Cares About who Builds Burlington County’s Roads”.

Democrats in the legislature are not perfect. I wish we could have a Senate full of Barbara Buonos and an Assembly full of John McKeons. But that isn’t going to happen.

Why isn’t that going to happen?  Barbara Buono got where she is today by being loyal to the party bosses for most of her political career, but was thrown out of her leadership position when she had the temerity to exert a modicum of independence.  She might not necessarily be the best example for this discussion, but it is still entirely possible that under the right circumstances, she could become the Democratic gubernatorial nominee and defeat Chris Christie next fall.

Undoubtedly, this chain of events is a longshot at best, but it is not outside the realm of possibility and if Dick Codey does not run (and he probably won’t if she does) for Governor, Buono is probably our best hope to elect a progressive Governor next year (I do not believe that Cory Booker is running for Governor next year if Christie runs for re-election).  If she is able to pull off a miracle, maybe other Democratic legislators, who have spent too much of their political careers mired in fealty to the Democratic establishment, would be willing to take the same kind of risks that Buono has over the past few years and have the temerity to exhibit a modicum of independence as well.

That said, John McKeon on the other hand is a much better example of what can happen when progressive Democrats stand up to the Democratic establishment.  Senator Loretta Weinberg is another.  In fact, they are excellent examples of electeds who are where they are specifically because there were people who were willing to fight their respective party organizations on behalf of people who they believed in.

Obamacare, Marriage Equality, and Chris Christie

Tomorrow should be a very big day in New Jersey political history as it is the deadline for Governor Chris Christie to sign or veto the Obamacare health exchange legislation.  However, as historic as the Obamacare legislation and New Jersey’s participation (or non-participation) in it might be, it is possible, if not likely, that the decision that Christie makes tomorrow will send a strong signal to both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party as well as the voters here in New Jersey and across the country about his political future, which has the potential to make even more history in the weeks and months to come.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy ripped a significant amount of our state to shreds and Governor Christie stopped being a politician and for one of the very few times since being elected in 2009 started being a Governor, his future as a 2016 Presidential candidate has become unclear to say the least.  Since the day that President Barack Obama arrived in our state to inspect the damage as was figuratively and literally embraced by Governor Christie, grumblings have been heard throughout the Republican universe that he went too far and these grumblings became louder and louder during every day that passed between the storm and Election Day.

Once it became clear that President Obama had defeated Mitt Romney to win re-election, nobody was grumbling anymore and the negative energy surrounding Christie and his nonpartisan governance during the Sandy crisis had become coherent enough for blame for Romney’s loss to be directed squarely at him.  As the entire Republican Party goes through its stages of grief and postmortems lead to rethinks about the future of the Republican Party and whether or not its increasingly visible and vocal colonelbatguanocrazy teabagging wingnuts will take control of the party (that hasn’t been) of Lincoln (for a very long time) once and for all, it is probably too early to say that Christie has no future as a Republican except within the tightly packed boundaries of the Garden State, but I don’t think that it is too early to say that the national GOP rock star that Christie was prior to Sandy is dead.

It is unclear to me what Christie could do at this juncture in his political career to recharge the mojo that made him the guy that Republicans, moderate and conservative alike, especially someone as truly out there as Ann Coulter, begged to run for President.  There is no YouTube moment short of punching Nancy Pelosi in the face that will overcome the omnipresent images of him and President Obama, standing side by side and putting governance ahead of politics.  If Christie never runs for President, there can be no doubt that he will have to spend the rest of his life wondering what might have been if he had said yes to everyone who was begging him to run, had won the Republican nomination, and those images were instead of the incumbent President and his opponent, standing side by side and putting governance ahead of politics.  Aside from the fact that in the same way that Romney would have been a stronger opponent for Obama than McCain was in 2008 or he was in 2012, Christie would have been a stronger opponent for Obama than Romney this year, Sandy could have been a game-changer.

This brings us to tomorrow’s historic decision.  I could be wrong, but I do not think that vetoing this legislation is going to change how Republicans, especially those on the far-right, feel about Christie at the moment.  Christie has already vetoed similar legislation earlier this year and if he vetoes it again, he would be one of many Republican Governors who have refused to cooperate in creating state health insurance exchanges.  However, if Christie reverses his prior position on this issue, recognizing that Obamacare is going to it would be best for the people in our state to be able to reap the full benefits of Obamacare, and signs this legislation into law, it would be akin to the shot heard round the world and that shot would most likely kill any hope that he might have had to run for President as a Republican once and for all.

However, I do not necessarily believe that signing this legislation would kill his Presidential ambitions altogether.  There would still be a path that he could follow towards a Presidential nomination, although to say that it would be the road less traveled would be an understatement.

Obamacare, Marriage Equality, and Chris Christie

Tomorrow should be a very big day in New Jersey political history as it is the deadline for Governor Chris Christie to sign or veto the Obamacare health exchange legislation.  However, as historic as the Obamacare legislation and New Jersey’s participation (or non-participation) in it might be, it is possible, if not likely, that the decision that Christie makes tomorrow will send a strong signal to both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party as well as the voters here in New Jersey and across the country about his political future, which has the potential to make even more history in the weeks and months to come.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy ripped a significant amount of our state to shreds and Governor Christie stopped being a politician and for one of the very few times since being elected in 2009 started being a Governor, his future as a 2016 Presidential candidate has become unclear to say the least.  Since the day that President Barack Obama arrived in our state to inspect the damage as was figuratively and literally embraced by Governor Christie, grumblings have been heard throughout the Republican universe that he went too far and these grumblings became louder and louder during every day that passed between the storm and Election Day.

Once it became clear that President Obama had defeated Mitt Romney to win re-election, nobody was grumbling anymore and the negative energy surrounding Christie and his nonpartisan governance during the Sandy crisis had become coherent enough for blame for Romney’s loss to be directed squarely at him.  As the entire Republican Party goes through its stages of grief and postmortems lead to rethinks about the future of the Republican Party and whether or not its increasingly visible and vocal colonelbatguanocrazy teabagging wingnuts will take control of the party (that hasn’t been) of Lincoln (for a very long time) once and for all, it is probably too early to say that Christie has no future as a Republican except within the tightly packed boundaries of the Garden State, but I don’t think that it is too early to say that the national GOP rock star that Christie was prior to Sandy is dead.

It is unclear to me what Christie could do at this juncture in his political career to recharge the mojo that made him the guy that Republicans, moderate and conservative alike, especially someone as truly out there as Ann Coulter, begged to run for President.  There is no YouTube moment short of punching Nancy Pelosi in the face that will overcome the omnipresent images of him and President Obama, standing side by side and putting governance ahead of politics.  If Christie never runs for President, there can be no doubt that he will have to spend the rest of his life wondering what might have been if he had said yes to everyone who was begging him to run, had won the Republican nomination, and those images were instead of the incumbent President and his opponent, standing side by side and putting governance ahead of politics.  Aside from the fact that in the same way that Romney would have been a stronger opponent for Obama than McCain was in 2008 or he was in 2012, Christie would have been a stronger opponent for Obama than Romney this year, Sandy could have been a game-changer.

This brings us to tomorrow’s historic decision.  I could be wrong, but I do not think that vetoing this legislation is going to change how Republicans, especially those on the far-right, feel about Christie at the moment.  Christie has already vetoed similar legislation earlier this year and if he vetoes it again, he would be one of many Republican Governors who have refused to cooperate in creating state health insurance exchanges.  However, if Christie reverses his prior position on this issue, recognizing that Obamacare is going to it would be best for the people in our state to be able to reap the full benefits of Obamacare, and signs this legislation into law, it would be akin to the shot heard round the world and that shot would most likely kill any hope that he might have had to run for President as a Republican once and for all.

However, I do not necessarily believe that it would kill his Presidential ambitions altogether.  There would still be a path that he could follow towards a Presidential nomination, although to say that it would be the road less traveled would be an understatement.

Chris Christie (D) – Yes, I am serious!

I am in the process of writing an article about this for examiner.com and once I have finished, I will excerpt it in a diary, but I wanted to respond to Rex Banner’s diary with one of my own.

My basic premise for believing that it is possible that Chris Christie could run for re-election as a Democrat next year is the simple fact that for the last three years, our state has been governed by a center-right coalition of Christiecrats and Republicans and that it would not require more than a change of letterhead to merge the Democratic and Republican establishments of our state.

The impetus for something like this taking place is the other simple fact that Christie no longer has a future in the Republican Party at the national level.  If he decides to remain a Republican, he could run for re-election, win, serve his second term, and run against Bob Menendez in 2018.  Beating Menendez might help him recharge the national right-wing mojo that he lost when he actually governed rather than politicked during Sandy and its aftermath, but it is unlikely.

Christie will most likely have to live the rest of his life regretting that he did not run for President this year when he had the chance to be the Republican nominee and would have actually been in the perfect position to win simply bt doing everything that he did during and after the storm.  Imagine the visual of a President and his opponent standing side by side in the wake of the frankenstorm, putting politics aside for the sake of the people.  It would not have hurt Obama, but it would have helped Christie far more.  There is no doubt in my mind that Christie would have been a stronger opponent than Romney before Sandy and afterwards could have been propelled to victory.  But alas, Christie let the opportunity of a lifetime slip through his fingers and I do not feel sorry for him at all.

That said, if I am right about what Christie and his Republican allies and George Norcross and his Christiecratic allies could pull off in the coming weeks, the national attention that it would attract, combined with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s money and the Americans Elect/No Labels movement’s organization could provide the foundation for a quasi-bipartisan ticket with Christie at the top and someone like Chuck Hagel as his running mate.

Obviously, the path that has Christie run against Menendez in 2018 is the more likely one, but I think the other one is at the very least within the realm of possibility.  We will probably know one way or another which path Christie has chosen when he either signs or vetoes the Obamacare health insurance exchange legislation sometime in the next few weeks.  If he signs the legislation, he is finished as a Republican at the national level and my theory becomes even more plausible.  If he vetoes it, then it is clear that he is staying in the GOP, but I don’t necessarily think that it will be enough for him to change how Republicans outside of NJ currently feel about him.

I don’t expect that the Christie-Norcross center-right coalition will govern much differently than it has to date, although I think that on some issues, it could hew somewhat closer to the center.  One of those issues could be marriage equality.  If Christie is smart enough to give up on trying to be the Republican Presidential nominee in 2016, and instead focuses on being a part of the effort to jumpstart Americans Elect behind his Presidential candidacy, one of the first steps that he could take would be to apologize for vetoing the marriage equality legislation and invite Republicans who disagree with him on the issue to override his veto.

Needless to say, the next few weeks/months will be very interesting.

Has Sandy Changed Christie’s Future?

Based on the initial post-Sandy reaction to the Christie-Obama bromance imagery, I do not see how Chris Christie has a chance to win the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016 (assuming that President Obama wins tomorrow – otherwise, this whole topic becomes moot).  His nonpartisan approach to governance during this crisis will be an even bigger albatross around his neck than Romneycare was for Romney and Christie will not have the luxury of taking on several sgtbatguanocrazy teabagging wingnut opponents, dividing what represented between 60-70% of the Republican primary election voter universe.

He will most likely be in a one-on-one with Paul Ryan who has undoubtedly been a very effective running mate for a terribly flawed Romney candidacy.  Winning a primary election in a one-on-one with a significantly more conservative candidate would have been hard enough pre-Sandy, but post-Sandy, there is just not enough SuperPAC dollars to change the mathematics of the Republican Party in the 21st Century, which probably has more in common with the Democratic Party of the 19th Century.

That said, there are other ways that Christie could become a Presidential candidate in 2016 whether he runs for re-election next year or not, although the path is clearer for him if he doesn’t.  If he and the people closest to him recognize the fact that he cannot win a Republican primary election in 2016, he could take advantage of the goodwill that he built up during and since the storm came and went by aligning himself with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the No Labels crowd, who tried and failed to build energy around the idea of a bipartisan ticket through their Americans Elect effort this year.

SHOW MARIE THE MONEY!!!

I just read today’s The Back Room column in PolitickerNJ about the special election in LD16 between Marie Corfield and her opponent, Republican quasi-incumbent, Donna Simon, and was particularly incensed when I read the following paragraph:

Two Democratic Party sources told PolitickerNJ.com that Corfield is having trouble raising money from her party, which worries about having to bankroll her re-election next year against a GOP ticket topped by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

I am not quite sure what aspect of this bothers me more.  It is bad enough that there are people within the Democratic establishment who are consciously not supporting Marie Corfield because they don’t want to have to spend money in another legislative district, sending the message to Democrats in Republican districts that our legislative majorities are big enough to accomplish what our party bosses want to do on behalf of our state’s Republican Governor and that their efforts in their districts are neither desired nor welcome, but it is truly reprehensible that there are two unnamed operatives, most likely acting on orders from above, who have no qualms about trying to sabotage Corfield’s impressive grassroots campaign by sending the message that the Democratic Party is not interested in electing her this year or re-electing her next year.

I do not know if others in the Blue Jersey community are as enraged by this as I am, but if you are, I would hope that you will join me in sending a message to NJDSC Chairman, John Wisniewski, that if he does have any gubernatorial ambitions that he wants to be taken seriously by the Blue Jersey community in particular and progressives in general as anything more than the sacrificial lamb candidacy that it appears to be, he should disavow what his operatives told the PolitickerNJ staff and make it his mission over the last few weeks of the campaign to commit NJDSC resources towards and personally solicit every Democratic State Assemblyperson and Democratic State Senator on behalf of the Corfield for Assembly campaign.

I have advocated on numerous occasions for the creation of a New Jersey Progressive Democratic State Committee that mirrors the NJDSC and its county and municipal committees and works towards providing primary election voters with a progressive alternative to establishment Democrats.  Any insurgent Democratic gubernatorial candidate is going to need an organization like this behind him or her to have any chance of winning next year’s primary election, especially if their establishment-backed opponent is going to have the party line in 2/3 or more of the state’s 21 counties.

However, this situation clearly illustrates that an organization like this is necessary if not essential for supporting candidates like Marie Corfield in the general election as well since it appears as if the NJDSC has reached the limit of the number of legislative districts in which it wants to compete every two years.  In the past, my advocacy for such an organization has been more or less ignored as fellow rank-and-file progressive Democrats and our leaders seem quite content to be disappointed in and dismissed by the Democratic establishment.  I hope that this insult to Marie Corfield and her fantastic grassroots campaign, particularly coming on the heels of becoming the top grassroots-powered state race in the country, is the straw that has finally broken the donkey’s back.